An oil field with the sun setting.

Unraveling Liability: Guide to Justice After Oil and Gas Accidents in Texas

When tragedy strikes in the oil fields of Texas, the aftermath can be overwhelming and confusing. Victims are often left with a whirlwind of emotions—confusion, anger, and an overwhelming sense of injustice—as they struggle with the physical pain of their injuries and the financial strain of medical bills. Whether it’s a catastrophic equipment failure, a slip on a slick platform, or an unexpected explosion, the question of liability looms large. Who should be held accountable? Is it the employer, a negligent contractor, or a machinery manufacturer with a defective product? Each accident has unique circumstances, sometimes making it a challenge to determine responsibility.

If this unfortunate reality has become your own, it’s time to take action. The law firm of Abraham Watkins is your ally in these trying times. With a legacy of fighting for the rights of oil and gas workers just like you, our attorneys are ready to help you on the path to justice and compensation. Don’t let the question of liability go unanswered. Call us now at 713-535-9319 for a free consultation and let Abraham Watkins take up your cause.

Oil and Gas Industry Accidents

The oil and gas industry, particularly in Texas, presents risks and legal implications for the industry. Oil field workers, who form a significant part of its workforce, confront challenges, including:

  • dealing with heavy machinery and toxic chemicals;
  • the ever-present threat of accidents from mechanical failures or communication breakdowns;
  • exposure to fires and explosions; and
  • operating dangerous machinery at heights.

These risks contribute to a high-risk work environment.

Over a decade, Texas experienced a total of 489 fatalities in the oil and gas extraction industry, with many of these incidents being oil field accidents and oil rig accidents. Traffic accidents, being struck by objects or equipment, and fires or explosions are cited as the three most common events leading to injury cases in the industry. This underscores the urgent need for occupational safety measures, timely maintenance of equipment, and effective communication protocols.

Steps to Take Following an Oil Field Injury

In the immediate aftermath of an oil field injury, the priority is to ensure the well-being of the injured worker. Not only does this involve activating emergency response procedures and providing first aid, but it’s equally important to start a medical record, which will serve as an essential piece of evidence in any future claims.

Reporting the incident as soon as it happens is crucial. Properly documenting details such as the time, location, and cause of the injury can significantly aid in legal proceedings. As time goes on, it gets harder to remember things correctly.

The initial phase also marks the ideal time to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney. They can provide invaluable guidance throughout the claims process, ensure the protection of rights, and help deal with insurance companies.

Gathering Evidence at the Accident Scene

At the core of any personal injury claim is evidence. This means it’s important to promptly collect as much of it as possible following an oil field accident:

  • immediately taking photographs and videos of the accident scene to capture the environment and any visible damages or hazards;
  • gathering witness testimonies to record different perspectives and accounts of the incident;
  • ensuring that a supervisor or responsible party documents the accident in a detailed report; and
  • collecting soil, water, and air samples from the vicinity for potential contamination analysis.

Beyond the accident scene, further evidence can be gathered in the form of medical bills and recorded treatments, along with photographs documenting the recovery period.

These pieces of evidence are instrumental in substantiating a compensation claim because they provide tangible proof of the injuries sustained and the direct consequences of the accident. Medical bills and recorded treatments offer a detailed account of the medical interventions required, their costs, and the timeline of the victim’s medical care, reflecting the severity of the injuries and the financial impact on the victim. Photographs documenting the recovery period serve as visual evidence of the injury’s progression, the healing process, and any lasting impairments, which can be powerful in illustrating the personal suffering and long-term effects of the injury. Together, these forms of evidence help to establish the extent of damages incurred, which is crucial for calculating fair compensation.

Reporting the Incident: A Critical Move for Legal Protection

Reporting the injury to the employer immediately after an oilfield accident is critical. Not only does this ensure that the incident is officially recorded, but it also preserves the injured worker’s legal rights by establishing a formal account of events. This formal report can be critical should there be any disputes about the occurrence of the incident or the details surrounding it. It serves as a foundational document that can be referenced throughout any legal proceedings, reinforcing the worker’s claims and enabling the pursuit of rightful compensation.

Workers in the Texas oil and gas industry must report their injury within 30 days from the date of the accident to file a workers’ compensation claim. Employers in Texas are not mandated by law to provide workers’ compensation coverage, making it imperative for employees to inquire about their options for injury protection directly with their employer. In Texas, where there’s no law forcing employers to offer workers’ compensation, it is important to know your rights and what your employer offers for injury protection. After discussing your options with your employer, it is crucial to consult with a knowledgeable personal injury attorney who can offer advice on the best course of action, whether it be through workers’ compensation benefits or alternative avenues for seeking compensation for injuries sustained.

Legal Protections for Oil and Gas Workers in Texas

In Texas, oil and gas workers are safeguarded by various laws and regulations designed to promote safe oil rig operations and a healthy work environment. These legal protections are vital in ensuring worker safety and holding employers accountable for any negligence.

For instance, Workers’ Compensation in Texas offers financial protection for employees injured on the job, including coverage for medical expenses, partial lost wages, and specific benefits in the event of death.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards require employers to adhere to stringent safety protocols, provide personal protective equipment, and conduct emergency response and fall protection training for oil and gas workers in Texas.

Identifying Responsible Parties in an Oil Field Accident

Identifying the responsible parties is not always straightforward when an oilfield accident occurs. A comprehensive investigation is necessary to establish liability, which can involve multiple parties such as:

  • Employers: For instance, if an employer fails to provide adequate safety training or enforce safety protocols, they could be held responsible for accidents resulting from these oversights.
  • Contractors: An example of contractor liability could be if they cut corners on safety to meet deadlines, leading to an unsafe work environment and potential accidents.
  • Equipment manufacturers: If an equipment manufacturer supplies a defective product that malfunctions and causes an accident, they could be liable for any resulting injuries.
  • Subcontractors: Subcontractors could be held responsible if they do not adhere to safety regulations, which might lead to accidents, such as improper handling of hazardous materials.

Each of these parties has a role to play in ensuring worker safety and can potentially be held liable in the event of an accident.

Liability can arise from various factors, including:

  • Inadequate maintenance: For example, neglecting regular inspections and repairs of drilling equipment could result in catastrophic equipment failures.
  • Improper training: An instance might be an untrained worker operating heavy machinery, leading to a serious accident due to a lack of knowledge of safety procedures.
  • Failure to enforce safety protocols: Such as not providing adequate fall protection systems for workers at height, could lead to fatal falls.
  • Negligently hiring contractors: Hiring a contractor without proper vetting for safety standards could result in hiring a team that disregards safety regulations, increasing the risk of accidents.

For equipment manufacturers, liability can arise when an accident is related to the equipment they provide. Understanding these potential sources of liability is crucial in pursuing compensation for an oil field injury.

The Role of Employers in Ensuring Worker Safety

Employers bear a significant responsibility in ensuring the safety of their employees. Legally, they are obligated to:

  • provide a safe working environment;
  • adhere to safety regulations;
  • ensure proper training and supervision; and
  • maintain workplaces free of known hazards causing death or serious physical harm.

Beyond these basic requirements, employers must also provide proper training on the handling of equipment, emergency response procedures, and the use of personal protective equipment. Regular safety audits and inspections are crucial for identifying potential hazards. Additionally, clear communication protocols for reporting hazards and near-misses are essential, and employers must ensure that all incidents are thoroughly investigated and addressed to reinforce worker safety.

Contractors and Subcontractors: Accountability in the Chain

Contractors and subcontractors also play a role in maintaining safety in the oil and gas industry. They are often tasked with specialized jobs that require specific expertise, such as electrical work, drilling, or transportation of hazardous materials. Their roles on the job site can significantly affect the safety and efficiency of operations, as well as the well-being of the employees on site.

Contractors are typically independent entities hired by oil and gas companies to perform particular tasks. They are responsible for their own safety protocols and training of their employees. However, their adherence to safety standards is crucial since their actions can have a direct impact on the overall safety of the site. For instance, if a contractor fails to follow proper procedures or neglects to maintain their equipment, it can lead to accidents that may injure not only their own workers but also the employees of the oil and gas company.

Contractors often hire subcontractors. Subcontractors must align with the safety expectations and protocols of both the oil and gas company and the contractors that hired them. Miscommunication between these different entities can lead to safety breaches and increased risk of accidents. Making it essential that all parties involved – the oil and gas company, contractors, and subcontractors – have clear communication channels and understand their roles and responsibilities in maintaining a safe work environment.

To reduce risks and ensure safety compliance, contractor operators and subcontractor operators need to perform proper prequalification and due diligence, including:

  • verifying subcontracting haulers’ credentials and safety records;
  • enforcing robust safety programs aligned with operators’ standards; and
  • securing adequate insurance coverage, such as workers’ compensation and general liability.

When a third party’s contribution to an accident is suspected (such as a contractor or subcontractor), securing evidence at the accident scene is crucial to establish liability and seek compensation for damages.

Equipment Manufacturers: The Question of Product Liability

The role of equipment manufacturers in ensuring worker safety cannot be overlooked. They are responsible for:

  • ensuring their products meet safety standards;
  • performing reliably under expected operating conditions; and
  • providing appropriate warnings and instructions for the safe use, maintenance, and inspection of their machinery and systems.

In cases where an oil rig accident is related to equipment failure, manufacturers can be held liable. This can include situations where the equipment was faulty, had design flaws, or there were inadequate warnings. Indeed, the liability of equipment manufacturers extends to all components used on the oil rig, including:

  • drilling rigs;
  • pipelines;
  • valves; and
  • safety systems.

Any of these can lead to injuries if found defective.

Workers’ Compensation and Personal Injury Claims

When seeking compensation for an oil field injury, it’s important to understand the difference between workers’ compensation and personal injury claims. Workers’ compensation claims do not require the injured worker to prove fault and offer coverage for economic damages like a portion of lost wages and medical expenses. However, they do not cover non-economic damages like pain and suffering.

On the other hand, personal injury claims necessitate establishing negligence on the part of another person or entity. They may include both economic and non-economic damages but require a lawsuit and can lead to a trial. In Texas, workers covered by workers’ compensation generally cannot sue their employers for workplace injuries, unless the employer does not carry workers’ compensation insurance, in which case the workers may sue for employer negligence.

When faced with this choice, it makes it an ideal time to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney from Abraham Watkins. We can be very helpful in deciding which route to take based on the situation and injuries sustained, whether it’s pursuing workers’ compensation benefits or filing a personal injury lawsuit. Rest assured, our support continues after you’ve made your choice, guiding you on that legal process.

Medical Expenses and Compensation for Severe Injuries

Compensation for oilfield injuries may include:

  • economic damages such as medical expenses from hospital bills, doctor visits, medication costs, and physical therapy sessions;
  • assistive devices;
  • lost income;
  • loss of earning capacity; and
  • non-economic damages such as emotional suffering, mental anguish, pain and suffering in the past and future, and permanent disfigurement;

Securing such compensation is vital for victims to manage the financial burden that often accompanies severe injuries.

In addition to economic damages, victims may also be able to claim non-economic damages. These damages are based on factors like endured physical pain, emotional distress, and the impact on daily life activities. To substantiate a compensation claim for such damages, preserving evidence, including documentation of the accident, injuries, and damages, is essential.

The Litigation Process for Oil Field Injuries in Texas

The litigation process for oil field injuries in Texas is a multi-step journey that begins with immediate medical attention for the victim, filing the claim within the two-year statute of limitations, and submitting the required paperwork. During this critical time, victims should consult experienced attorneys who focus on oil field injuries to guide them through the legal process, including possible actions against employers without workers’ compensation insurance.

Building a case involves gathering evidence such as photographs, witness statements, medical records, evidence of negligence, and meticulous tracking of all accident-related losses. Negotiation with insurance companies and other parties aims to secure a fair settlement, taking into account medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering, and any partial fault under Texas’s modified comparative negligence doctrine.

If a fair settlement is not reached, the case may go to trial, which involves presenting the case before a judge or jury and can vary in duration from months to years.

Pursuing Justice with Abraham Watkins

As an injured oil and gas worker, you deserve legal representation that is not only skilled and experienced but also passionate about securing justice for you. That’s where Abraham Watkins comes in. Our attorneys are skilled in negotiations with insurance companies and aim to obtain just compensation for workers injured in the oil and gas industry, whether through workers’ compensation claims or through litigation. With a thorough understanding of the oilfield work environment and proficiency in identifying OSHA violations, we are well-equipped to fight for your rights.

Equipped for trial, we fight for our client’s rights to secure maximum compensation in oilfield accident cases. We commit to:

  • an in-depth investigation of each case;
  • advocating for the rights of oilfield accident victims through meticulous legal pursuit; and
  • a personalized approach and a results-oriented mindset.

Don’t wait to get the legal support you need. If you’ve been injured in an oil and gas accident, take the first step towards justice and compensation by calling Abraham Watkins at 713-535-9319. Our dedicated team is ready to fight for your rights, ensuring that every aspect of your case is handled with experience and care. We believe everyone deserves access to high-quality legal representation without an upfront cost. Contact us for a free consultation, and let us be your champion in the pursuit of the fair compensation you deserve.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the most common injury on a rig site?

The most common injury on a rig site is amputation, often caused by fingers getting caught in machinery due to inadequate safety measures or lack of attention. Besides amputations, fractures are prevalent, particularly in the legs, resulting from slips, trips, and falls on the rig. Additionally, workers may suffer from head trauma and spinal cord and back injuries due to falls from heights or being struck by heavy equipment.

What does it mean to be liable for an injury or accident?

Being liable for an injury or accident means being deemed at fault for its occurrence, and bearing the responsibility for the accident or injury. This can include financial responsibility for medical bills, lost wages, and other damages incurred by the injured party. In the context of oil field accidents, determining liability is crucial as it affects the compensation that injured workers can receive.

What are the most common causes of oil field accidents in Texas?

The most common causes of oil field accidents in Texas are mechanical failures, communication breakdowns, and exposure to hazardous conditions. Mechanical failures can range from malfunctioning equipment to structural failures, all of which pose serious risks to workers. Communication breakdowns can lead to accidents due to mismanaged operations, while hazardous conditions such as fires, explosions, and unsafe machinery are ever-present dangers in this high-risk industry.

What steps should I take immediately after an oil field injury?

After an oil field injury, it’s crucial to seek immediate medical attention to assess and treat any injuries sustained. Reporting the incident to a supervisor or employer is essential, as it establishes a record of the event and begins the documentation process. Additionally, gathering evidence at the scene, if possible, and consulting with a personal injury attorney can provide support for future legal claims and ensure that your rights are protected.

Can I still receive compensation if I am partially at fault for the oil field accident?

In Texas, the rule of modified comparative negligence applies, which means that you can still receive compensation if you are partially at fault for an accident, as long as your degree of fault does not exceed 50%. The compensation awarded will be reduced by the percentage of your fault. For instance, if you are found to be 30% at fault for an accident with total damages of $100,000, you would be eligible to receive $70,000. It is important to consult with a personal injury attorney to navigate these complexities and understand how this rule may affect your case and potential compensation.